2017 minus 13: The Library

Posted: 19 December 2016 in 2017 minus

Some more fiction for you… As I’ve mentioned previously:

Elephant Words was a fiction site to which I contributed stories, on and off, for several years. The idea behind the site was simple, based on the old tale of several blind people describing an elephant based only on touch; one described the animal as a long snake, another that it was hard and bony, still another that it was like a tree trunk. Every week, one of the participants would put up an image, and over the following week, people would write a story inspired upon the image alone.

Occasionally, a story didn’t need the image to contextualise the tale, but I always tried to use it to the point that if the image wasn’t there, I’d have had to change something about the story.

Here’s another one of them; an image, and the story it inspired me to write.


The old man took one last look around the room before he leaned on his cane and turned his aged body towards the door.

His leg ached. It was nothing new to him; his arms ached, his shoulders ached and his hip ached as well. But they were less recent pains compared to the one that had brought him to the school near his house.

He remembered when they had built the library, after the fire that had consumed the books and the shelves; that the conflagration had occurred at night, when no-one would have been inside, barely lessened the hurt.

The investigation was peremptory – it had hardly needed to be more detailed, as the culprit had been identified quickly: a student, upset at a series of failing grades.

And so there was a new library, with multi-media facilities, where students could borrow digital technologies as well as old fashioned books, where they could recharge their phones as well as educate their minds.

He thought back on the past hour: pre-college students slumped on couches, reading, browsing, playing, and in two cases, sleeping. Everything a school library was for in what some called these enlightened days.

But they were using it.

The old man reached the door, and politely held it open for the two students entering the library.

They stared at him with mild contempt, as if the idea of a non student in the room offended them. Then they giggled as he raised his hat to them and moved past him, gossiping about a mutual acquaintance.

As he passed through the door, he turned once again and looked at the librarian, who smiled fondly at him. She thought he was a fairly harmless old cove, and he only popped in every six months or so, so she was willing to bend the rules for a smile. And a box of chocolates.

He paused and put his hand on the small plaque by the door and a flash of memory, of a life spent together in love, and if not cut short, then cut shorter than was fair.

In her name he’d paid for the library; she’d so loved reading books.

He hailed a cab and gave the address of the old age home he still lived in with her. He’d tell her of the visit. Maybe this time she might remember what a book was.


© Lee Barnett

See you tomorrow, with something else… 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

  1. Weeping here. No apologies.

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